Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Direct Hit by Mike Hollow - REVIEWED

About the Book:
The jagged blast of high explosives rips through the evening air. In the sky over East London the searchlights criss-cross in search of the enemy. 

On the first night of the Blitz, a corpse is discovered in a van in the back streets of West Ham. Detective Inspector John Jago recognizes the dead man as local Justice of the Peace Charles Villers. But then a German bomb obliterates all evidence. 

Villers, not a popular man, was both powerful and feared. As the sirens wail, the detective must start matching motive to opportunity--and it doesn't help when his boss foists an intrusive American journalist on him. 

Jago soon discovers the dead man held many secrets, some reaching back to World War I. A lot of people wished Villers dead--and an air raid is a good time to conceal a murder. 

My Thoughts:
There was no justice in war, and sometimes no justice in peace.”  (p. 295)

Detective Inspector John Jago and his colleague Detective Constable Craddock are policemen in the town of West Ham England during the early part of WWII.  Air raids and an active draft board have created the perfect storm from which they must attempt to solve a murder.  If you can imagine a 1940’s version of a modern-day crime show, then you catch a glimpse into the first book , Direct Hit, in a brilliant series, The Blitz Detective

I now have another author to add to my list of favorite crime writers!  Mike Hollow’s characters, Jago and Craddock, are just men trying to do an almost impossible job of policework – all the while ducking into bomb shelters with the hopes of surviving long enough to solve their crime!  The other characters in the novel are realistically flawed by the circumstances to which they were born, and the universal themes of fear, greed, vengeance and romance weave together to create a very tangled web for our two detectives to unravel!

Relying only upon gut-hunches and minds sharpened by phenomenal detective skills, Jago  and Craddock sift through a mountain of witnesses and discover secrets that are as old as the First World War.  Parents are fighting to protect their children – young and old – from a war that seems intent upon destroying everything!  Amidst all of the chaos, Hollow inserts a feisty American journalist for good measure, and readers must read frantically to discover the truth at the bottom of the rubble left behind in the wake of unrelenting German bombers!

I am totally enamored by this series, and I HIGHLY recommend it to everyone!  Mike Hollow has scored a Direct Hit on my reading list with two very likable English police detectives! 

About the Author:
Mike Hollow studied languages at Cambridge, then worked for the BBC, and then Tearfund. Now a freelance writer and editor, he lives in Basingstoke with his wife Margaret. A popular poet, his work has been widely performed and has appeared in many collections.

Duck Derby!

(NASHVILLE, Tennessee) -- Nashville-based non-profit Gabe’s Chemo Duck Program is pleased to announce that Riley Bria from this season of American Idol will perform live and meet with fans at Chemo Duck’s 3rd Annual Duck Derby, taking place at Nashville Shores (4001 Bell Road in Hermitage, TN) on Saturday, August 1st. The popular family-friendly event will benefit kids living with cancer. 

Discount tickets to the event at Nashville Shores are available for $19.99 (plus tax) (promotional code: DUCK). For a donation of $5, supporters can purchase one of 2,500 rubber ducks that will be dropped into Nashville Shores’ lazy river. A Grand Prize of $1,000 will be awarded to the donor whose rubber duck is the first to cross the finish line. Additionally, a donation of 24 Chemo Ducks will be made to the hospital of the winner’s choice. Winners do not need to be present to win, and all proceeds from the event will be used to place more Chemo Ducks into the hands of young cancer patients waiting for a duck of their own.

Doors open at 10 a.m. and the Duck Derby will take place at 3 p.m. Eighteen year-old Spring Hill resident Riley Bria, who has shared the stage with artists like Keith Urban and made the Top 10 for the guys on the just-completed season of American Idol, will be on hand to perform and meet with fans. Additional games and activities for the entire family will take place throughout the day including a duck scavenger hunt and a duck face contest. Door prizes will also be available.

“We are so excited to have Riley joining us at Nashville Shores for the 3rd Annual Duck Derby,” said Lu Sipos, founder of Gabe’s Chemo Duck Program. “Nashville continues to embrace Chemo Duck allowing us to provide huggable hope to children living with cancer!” 

Chemo Duck’s 3rd Annual Duck Derby is sponsored by Jackson National Life Insurance Company, with additional sponsorship by B.L. Harbert, Williamson Pediatric Dentistry, StoneTree Mulch, Gravel & More, Crain Construction and Nashville Publicity Group.

Gabe’s Chemo Duck Program is a program of the Nashville-based nonprofit organization, Gabe’s My Heart, which was established in 2004 to provide education and comfort to children living with cancer through medical play using therapeutic tools. The goal of the program is to enable hospital staff and parents to prepare children for chemotherapy treatment and eliminate the fear of the unknown. Chemo Duck is a stuffed yellow duck dressed in blue hospital scrubs with a bandana around its head, a chemotherapy port on its chest and an immobilizer on his arm. In a gentle, age-appropriate manner, children learn what to expect during cancer treatment and have a friend to share the experience. In turn, children can use Chemo Duck to help friends, siblings and classmates to understand and empathize with their experience. For more information, visit

Monday, July 27, 2015

Dead Dog Like Me by Max Davis - REVIEWED

This week, the
Christian Fiction Blog Alliance
is introducing
Dead Dog Like Me
Worthy Publishing (June 23, 2015)
Max Davis


Max Davis is the author of over twenty books, has been featured in USA Today and Publisher’s Weekly, and has appeared on The Today Show and The 700 Club. He holds degrees in journalism and biblical studies. In addition to his own works, he’s done a variety of ghostwriting and collaboration projects. Max and Alanna have three grown children and a grand baby.


Nick Gregory regains consciousness after a horrific car accident to find he’s been transported back in time and that he has become Mephibosheth, Jonathan’s son and King Saul’s grandson. Aware that he’s experiencing another man’s life, he has to learn fast. When mega-church pastor, Nick Gregory, regains consciousness after a horrific car accident, he’s on the ground in agonizing pain. Nick realizes he is in a bizarre place – a foreign, parched, ancient land, having been transported back in time to 800 B.C. Unbelievably, he is in the body of a prince named Mephibosheth, a son of Jonathan and King Saul’s grandson. Nick is fully aware of who he is and that he’s now living in Mephibosheth’s body, strangely able to speak and understand Hebrew. This experience helps him see that he, like Mephibosheth, is a broken man desperate for God’s outrageous grace and healing (2 Samuel 9:8). Returning to present day, Nick’s experience motivates a changed life.

My Thoughts:
God’s specialty is breathing life into dead situations.” (p. 173)

I am SO THANKFUL that Phillip Gregory had a friend like Kenny Squires!  I know, these are fictional characters, but when I completed dead dog like me, I was totally invested in the lives of these characters!  A megachurch pastor’s fall from grace….well, it happens.  That’s reality.  And Phillip Gregory’s fall was pretty spectacular.  This fictional character mirrors many well-known mega-church pastors – multiple books published and church members and news media that trek them with the accuracy of a bloodhound on the scent of a fresh kill.  There is no grace and mercy for being human in this realm.  None.

So what choices present themselves?  Supernatural experiences that take place when the veil between this world and the next becomes thin…..and daily spiritual battles are displayed in a way that every believer will recognize and relate to!  I love the way the author develops each character and realistically walks alongside all of their many choices.  There is loss, betrayal, tragedy…and time and time again, each character has a very difficult choice to make – to follow God, or to follow their emotions. 

Everything get particularly brutal for Phillip’s wife, Abbi.  My heart broke for her time and time again.  She was the character I related to most closely, and her journey to find healing and wholeness is not an easy one.  Phillip’s experiences are rather remarkable, and the way both characters submit to the process of transformation is realistic and very moving!

I began this book with no expectations, and what I discovered was  a story that will leave its mark upon my life for always!  Max Davis is a new author to me, and I’ve elected myself to the Number One position in his fan club!  DON’T MISS THIS BOOK!! It is remarkable in every way!

If you would like to read the first chapter of Dead Dog Like Me, go HERE.

Friday, July 24, 2015

Tattered and Mended by Cynthia Ruchti - REVIEWED

About the Book:
Jesus takes our ragged edges and missing pieces and mends us into something both whole and beautiful.Artisans can reclaim exquisite beauty from the broken, frayed, and hopefully shattered—perhaps once thought beyond repair. But what about us? What of the wounds that keep us from living the life we want to live?

In Tattered and Mended, readers walk through a gallery of reclaimed and restored art as well as broken and restored lives of those who have gone before us. With a gentle touch and personable wisdom, Cynthia Ruchti shows how even the most threadbare soul can once again find healing and hope.

My Thoughts:
It’s counterproductive for us to wait until we’re ready to heal.  We’ll never be ready for the mending process.  God invites us to heal anyway.”  (p. 36)

Cynthia Ruchti enters boldly into a the subject of healing…being mended by God in all of our broken places.  To recognize this healing as a process that we must choose to pursue as we submit to God’s will, is divine sovereignty in every single event in our lives.  He is always making beauty from the tattered souls that have walked through trials in this life.  Ruchti speaks to trials that are both self-inflicted and those that explode upon us with a fierceness that threatens to destroy us.  God is there.  He is the master designer and healer of our souls. 

Ruchti says it best: “In surrender – not to the pain, but to The Healer – we abandon ourselves to the process, to the One whose steady hand pieces the ripped canvas back together, thread by thread.”
 (p. 91)

This is a tender, honest book that looks at the lives of both modern-day and Biblical characters and establishes the truth that, if we turn to God in our brokenness, regardless of the source of that brokenness, He is able and faithful to heal us if we submit to the process. 

I HIGHLY recommend this book for everyone who has even been wounded by life.  You will come away with a faith that is stronger, that has been challenged, and a hope that will sustain through any trial.
About the Author:
Cynthia Ruchti is the author of the critically acclaimed Where the Morning Glory Blooms andThey Almost Always Come Home. After 33-years as writer/producer of the daily 15-minute radio broadcast, The Heartbeat of the Home, Cynthia served a two-year term as president of American Christian Fiction Writers and currently serves as ACFW's Professional Relations Liaison. In addition to writing novels, devotionals, and magazine articles, she speaks for women's events and writers' conferences. Cynthia and her plot-tweaking husband live in Central Wisconsin, where she creates stories of Hope-that-glows-in-the-dark. Find Cynthia on the web at

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Thriving in Babylon by Larry Osborne - REVIEWED

About the book: 
Thriving in Babylon
 (David C. Cook, April 2015)

Meet a man forced to live in a fast changing and godless society. He faced fears about the future, concern for his safety, and the discouragement of world that seemed to be falling apart at warp speed.

Sound familiar? His name was Daniel, and with the power of hope, humility, and wisdom, he not only thrived, he changed an empire while he was at it. Though he lived thousands of years ago, he has a much to teach us today.

Even in Babylon, God is in control.

In Thriving in Babylon, Larry Osborne explores the "adult" story of Daniel to help us not only survive - but actually thrive in an increasingly godless culture. Here Pastor Osborne looks at:

-Why panic and despair are never from God
-What true optimism looks like
-How humility disarms even our greatest of enemies
-Why respect causes even those who will have nothing to do with God to listen
-How wisdom can snatch victory out of the jaws of defeat
For those who know Jesus and understand the full implications of the cross, the resurrection, and the promises of Jesus, everything changes---not only in us, but also in our world.

You can purchase your copy HERE.

My Thoughts:
God’s judgement always begins with his own.  Which is why he raised up the Babylonians and allowed them to sack Jerusalem, and maybe why he’s allowed the modern-day sacking of American Christianity.”  (p. 50)

Larry Osborne’s book, Thriving in Babylon, is a critically important book for readers to experience if they are hungry to learn how to ensure their faith thrives despite the darkness of the modern day trials that surround us.  Instead of allowing panic to paralyze our faith-walk, we can walk into each day with assurance that God is indeed Sovereign over all that is taking place – both in our lives and the world around us.  The bottom line ultimately can be summed up succinctly:  “Though our options are nowhere near as gut-wrenching or perplexing as Abraham’s, we still must choose if we are going to trust God or not.”  (p.105)

Osborne uses both biblically accurate and practical everyday examples and illustrations to encourage believers not to give up the fight as days grow ever darker around us.  He uses the framework of hope, humility and wisdom to build upon, and the result has become a powerful encouragement to believers no matter if they are new believers or if they have a mature and solid faith foundation. 

For me, this book was a literal godsend!  I read thoroughly, highlighted, underlined, and used a host of sticky flags to mark passages that spoke to me.  I think believers need this encouragement, and the challenge this book sets before us.  I can’t recommend this book highly enough!! 

No matter what you’re going through at the moment, God hasn’t forgotten you.  He has a master plan.  He may well be preparing you for a place called Babylon. And if he is, it’s not so you can survive.  It’s so you can thrive!” (p.88)  

About the Author:
Dr. Larry Osborne has served as a senior pastor and teaching pastor at North Coast Church---one of the ten most influential churches in the country---since 1980. Dr. Osborne is the author of numerous books, includingAccidental Pharisees. He and his wife live in Oceanside, California. They have three grown children.

You can find him on the web on Facebook and Twitter

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

warrior chicks by Holly Wagner - REVIEWED

About the Book:
There is a lot in life we cannot control--a cancer diagnosis, the choices our children make, a spouse who leaves, disappointments in our career, a broken heart. But in those tragedies, big and small, we still have a choice: 

Lie down and give in or stand up and fight.
In this inspiring call to arms against victimhood, Holly Wagner challenges women to enlist as Warrior Chicks. She shows women that they are beautiful just the way they are, they are destined to be overcomers in this life, and that the battle is already won for us. She shares the secrets of being equipped to fight the good fight and do more than just survive. As one who has battled many things in her life, including breast cancer, Holly shows how you can be either a casualty of the pain or a warrior who overcomes. 

So what's it going to be?

My Thoughts:

It’s all about a life rooted in God.  It is knowing who you are in Him, knowing the purpose for which you have been created and staying committed to working that out.”  (p. 153)

Holly Wagner’s book, warrior chicks, takes these profound truths and adds realistic steps to flesh out the story of her own journey as well as those who have walked through the Bible before us.  She uses examples from her years in ministry to illustrate the truth that we all have a choice to make when the storms of life crash over our lives:  we can lie down in defeat or we can rise and fight.  We can be foot soldiers, or we can be warriors.  We must choose to wallow in defeat or rise and fight from a place of victory!

Holly has a gift of speaking the truth in love while simultaneously challenging and encouraging readers to fall into the arms of their Heavenly Father and embrace His love for us!  We CAN KNOW who we are and whose we are as children of God, and we can live lives that can touch and bring healing to others.

This book has intersected my life at a God-appointed time.  A time of great change. A season of forgiving and receiving forgiveness.  A season of closing the door on yesterday and throwing the door to my future wide with hope.  This is a book that makes me feel God’s love for me and a book that has encouraged me anew to put on my armor and continue to fight the fight set before me.  To wait on God and listen to His voice.

I cannot begin to say enough about this book!  It is a gift! It is a message of truth and hope!  Fight on, sister warriors!  We are not alone!

About the Author:
Holly Wagner is copastor of Oasis Christian Center in Los Angeles, California, where she oversees the women's ministry. GodChicks has grown beyond Oasis to reach thousands of women each year through conferences, books, and other resources. Holly is a popular conference speaker known for her challenging, humorous style and honest approach to real-life issues. Holly has written four books, includingGodChicks and Daily Steps for GodChicks. She and her husband, Philip, have two children.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

The Lost Garden by Katharine Swartz - REVIEWED

About the Book:
Present and past residents of a countryside English vicarage search for love 

Marin Ellis is in search of a new start after her father and his second wife die in a car accident leaving her the guardian of her fifteen-year-old half-sister, Rebecca. They choose the picturesque village of Goswell on the Cumbrian coast and settle into Bower House, the former vicarage, on the edge of the church property. When a door to a walled garden captures Rebecca's interest, Marin becomes determined to open it and discover what is hidden beneath the bramble inside. She enlists the help of local gardener Joss Fowler, and together the three of them begin to uncover the garden's secrets. 

In 1919, nineteen-year-old Eleanor Sanderson, daughter of Goswell's vicar, is grieving the loss of her beloved brother Walter, who was killed just days before the Armistice was signed. Eleanor retreats into herself and her father starts to notice how unhappy she is. As spring arrives, he decides to hire someone to make a garden for Eleanor, and draw her out of--or at least distract her from--her grief and sorrow. Jack Taylor is in his early twenties, a Yorkshire man who has been doing odd jobs in the village, and when Eleanor's father hires him to work on the vicarage gardens, a surprising--and unsuitable--friendship unfolds. 

Deftly weaving the dual narratives, Katharine Swartz explores themes of loyalty and love through her memorable characters and strong sense of place. 

My Thoughts:
This is what happens to everything.”  (p. 155)

Rebecca was speaking of the abandoned, overgrown garden at the back of their property when she spoke to her half-sister Marin.  However, these few words are a bit prophetic in both of the stories Katherine Swartz weaves together in her novel, The Lost Garden.  This novel cleverly weaves the lives of two families that span nearly a century of tragedy, heartache and, albeit grudging – renewal.  The lives of the Sanderson family in the wake of the First World War, and the lives of Marin Ellis and her half-sister Rebecca in the wake of their own family tragedy begin to mirror one another more and more as the novel progresses.  This becomes the universal story of grieving losses and, in the end, choosing how to move forward even though you would rather not.  The longing for things to be different from what they are is a circumstance we all face time and time again over the course of a lifetime.  The journey to discover the choices that these characters make will both surprise and satisfy you.

I was totally able to identify with the propensity to keep secrets….to protect the ones you love from further hurt…all the while sorting through your own pain.  Life has always been filled with complex choices, and we all have to deal with the repercussions of each choice we make.  To own that is the journey each of Swartz’ characters is put upon through some means or another.  It is fascinating to follow their development and to reach the conclusion of their individual choices.

This is a more complex book than I first suspected, but I think it is largely due to the places it intersects my own journey.   I think this novel reflects what each individual brings to the story.  So prepare for the unexpected!  You may cry.  You may laugh.  You may experience many things you didn’t expect.  Enjoy the journey!

About the Author:
After spending three years as a diehard New Yorker, Katharine Swartz now lives in the Lake District with her husband, an Anglican minister, their five children, and a Golden Retriever. She enjoys such novel things as long country walks and chatting with people in the street, and her children love the freedom of village life--although she often has to ring four or five people to figure out where they've gone off to! 

In addition to writing women's fiction, she writes contemporary romance for Mills & Boon Modern under the name Kate Hewitt. Whatever the genre, she enjoys delivering a compelling and intensely emotional story.